Dallas: Tony Pedregon preview

Pedregon's bid for first title moves to the Texas Motorplex Castrol SYNTEC0 driver nursing 94-point advantage over Bazemore ENNIS, Texas (Oct. 10-12) -- Tony Pedregon's bid to become only the second driver in Funny Car drag racing history to...

Pedregon's bid for first title moves to the Texas Motorplex

Castrol SYNTEC0 driver nursing 94-point advantage over Bazemore

ENNIS, Texas (Oct. 10-12) -- Tony Pedregon's bid to become only the second driver in Funny Car drag racing history to win eight races in a single season and only the second in 11 years to win the NHRA POWERade championship moves this week to Billy Meyer's Texas Motorplex.

Trying to follow the lead of older brother Cruz, the last driver other than John Force to win a Funny Car championship (1992), the youngest of the Pedregons will carry a 94-point lead into the start of Friday qualifying for the 18th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals.

It's not a secure lead, but "it's a better position than we were in a year ago," reminded the driver of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang.

"We were second behind John coming in here," Pedregon recalled, "and I can tell you that the view from the front is a lot better.

"There's no doubt that you're more of a target when you're in the (points) lead," he continued. "It's like a fast gun in the Old West.

Everybody's trying to make a name for himself by beating the guy who's on the point. But I'd rather be the one trying to hold on than the one trying to catch up."

The 38-year-old Californian, four times the runner-up for the series championship (1996, 1997, 1999 and 2002), almost made the pass last year. In fact, when he left the Motorplex following the 2002 Fall Nationals, he trailed Force just 13 points.J Nevertheless, he wound up losing the title by 78.

Pedregon/Motorplex 2222

Ironically, it is because he LOST that duel with his boss a year ago that Pedregon remains confident that he has around him a team that can win the $400,000 POWERade Champion's bonus this time around.

"I think we're better because of last year," Pedregon said. "I learned a lot. I think everybody on this team did. We know what it takes and it looks like we're going to need every bit of that experience."

Indeed, after racing on "cruise control" for half the season, winning six of the season's first 12 races, Pedregon finds himself squarely in the middle of another fight, this one with Dodge driver Whit Bazemore who, despite having won only three times this year, briefly took the lead just three weeks ago with a victory at Memphis, Tenn.

Pedregon battled back in front with a win at Joliet, Ill., and manufactured a bit of a cushion when Bazemore suffered a rare qualifying failure last week at Reading, Pa. Nevertheless, Pedregon admittedly has struggled since June.

"We've has some flashes (of early-season form), but we've lacked that consistency," Pedregon said, "and we need to find it."

Although Bazemore trails by five competitive rounds (each round won is worth 20 points), the battle is made the more interesting by the fact that, starting with the Motorplex, the only all-concrete quarter mile on the circuit, each of the last three tracks has the capability of yielding an NHRA national record, which is worth 20 bonus points.

"We know the record implications," Pedregon said. "Last year, we tried to go after it a couple times down the stretch because, really, it's like winning an extra round. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for us but (the bonus points) are still out there and if the conditions are right, we'd go after it again. Bazemore will, too."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force